7. John Cena Vs. AJ Styles: I wound up becoming a victim of my own expectations with this match. There was no match on this show I was looking forward to more as two of the greatest in-ring performers of their time were facing off for the very first time. I was expecting nothing short of a phenomenal match. Sadly, the match turned out to be less than phenomenal. It was way too slow moving during the first half of a 25 minute match. I don’t mind a Japanese-style slow build, but it felt more like stalling to stretch things out here. Cena seemed to have some ring rust as both men bungled entire spots with shocking sloppiness. Sloppiness and Cena haven’t been in tandem since 2005. They seemed to be telling the story that Styles was superior to Cena, but just couldn’t get the job done. Not the best story to tell considering Styles has lost his last three PPV matches. After ten minutes of snail-paced tedium, both men finally found their groove and started putting on a strong effort in the ring. Both men broke free from the other man’s submission finisher: Cena’s STF and Styles’ Calf Crusher. Cena took an insane bump on his head from the Styles Clash and managed to get up, which is a testament to his strength. The finish was a cluster as Cena had Styles up on his shoulders for the Attitude Adjustment, but Styles managed to shift their collective weight towards the ref, knocking him out. This allowed Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows to hit the ring and destroy Cena with the Magic Killer. Styles made the cover and the ref recovered in time for the 1-2-3. This ignored the stipulation of the match that Anderson and Gallows couldn’t interfere in the match. Then again, this is main roster WWE, where logic is a dirty word and the belief is fans have no long-term memory. Styles wins, but in a tainted manner that wasn’t nearly as effective as a clean pin over Cena (like Kevin Owens achieved last year at Elimination Chamber) would have been. Let’s hope their next match is better than this. ***1/4
8. Money in the Bank Ladder Match: Kevin Owens Vs. Dean Ambrose Vs. Chris Jericho Vs. Sami Zayn Vs. Cesaro Vs. Alberto Del Rio: WWE made a huge mistake putting Jericho in this match. Besides the fact that he’s a 46 year old veteran whose best days are behind him, adding him into what is supposed to be a fast paced match caused problems. Since he can’t move as fast as his fellow competitors, they couldn’t move as fast as they normally do to accommodate him. The result was a sluggish ladder match that wasn’t even close to the best this match usually delivers. Not to mention that it was a non-stop demolition derby devoid of psychology. There was one missed opportunity when Kevin Owens had Sami Zayn pinned to the ring apron with a giant ladder. He teased running up the ladder and flattening Zayn out with a running senton, but he chose to deliver a weak superkick instead. Fans live weren’t happy over this undelivered promise. There was one innovative spot where Del Rio clamped on the armbar onto Cesaro while atop a 15 foot high ladder. It was the usual daredevil ladder match spots, but something was missing. Jericho looked ancient in the ring and when he dominated large stretches, the match stopped dead. The best stuff in the match came from Cesaro, who was just awesome. Whether it was doing the European uppercut while on the ladder, to a triple set of running uppercuts to three men in the corner to breaking free from Del Rio’s armbar without breaking his arm, he really should be considered as a top claimant of the inevitable second World title that will be created once the brand split happens in July. The finish was heartpounding in one way. It looked as if WWE was going to do something stupid and have Jericho win the match by grabbing the briefcase. The fans were starting to boo, but along came Dean Ambrose who promptly slugged Jericho with such force that it caused him to fall off the ladder and right through another that was sandwiched between the bottom rope and the ladder. Ambrose grabbed the briefcase, which was a welcome sight indeed. Ambrose more than anyone else on the roster deserves to be in the top world title mix. **3/4
9. United States Champion Rusev Vs. Titus O’Neil: After two disappointing matches in a row, along came Rusev and O’Neil to set the ship right. No one was expecting much from this match, so with nothing to lose, both men went all out and had a really good and very stiff match. I applaud both for giving us a Grade-A effort during an evening with one underwhelming match after another. The match started out as a physical brawl, which was simply great and exciting as hell. Then they took it to the ring for some solid matwork that was quite impressive for two fairly large men. They even had Titus score several near-falls, allowing him to look as if he could pull off the upset. I was kind of hoping he would win the title, if only for a week, since Titus is an underrated talent that could use the rub of the title. But alas, even on Father’s Day, the MEGA Award winning Celebrity Dad of the Year couldn’t pull off the win. Rusev finished off Titus with a superkick, a stomp to the back and the Accolade for the tap out. Afterwards, Rusev walked up to Titus’ two sons at ringside and made fun of their father. Most noticeably, Rusev spoke with an American accent instead of the faux Bulgarian one he usually uses. Strong effort from all involved here. ***3/4
10. WWE World Heavyweight Champion Roman Reigns Vs. Seth Rollins: Despite being the storyline heel, Rollins was heavily cheered. Despite being the storyline babyface, Reigns was booed out the building in what may have been the worst reaction he’s received to date since being anointed the latest Chosen One by Vince. This show desperately needed a great match to close the show and thankfully, Reigns and Rollins delivered. This was a near-perfect match and the only one resembling an excellent ****+ bout on this show. The fans started chanting “You Can’t Wrestle” to Reigns, which is beyond idiocy at this point. Now if they would have said “You Can’t Talk” or “You Have No Charisma”, then they’d be onto something. Reigns worked total heel style, right down to his mannerisms, trash talking and choice of spots. He did debut a killer new spot in which he lifted Rollins up in the Razor’s Edge and then turned it into a sitdown powerbomb. This spot was so impressive and looked so devastating that it should immediately be turned into his new finisher instead of the Spear, which is already used by at least two other wrestlers in other promotions and they both do it more effectively then Roman does. Some have knocked the match for being too long at 27 minutes, but when the work in-ring is this good, why complain? It was Reigns’ best performance in the ring since winning the title at Wrestlemania, atoning for a disappointing showing at Payback and Extreme Rules. Then again, Reigns and Rollins weren’t saddled with the overbooked mess that Reigns and AJ Styles were least month. It was a pair of simple stories well told: 1) Reigns finally getting his hands on the man who has been a thorn in his side for two years and 2) Rollins triumphantly returning to regain the World title he never lost in the ring due to injury. The last five minutes of this match were heartpounding and oozing genuine suspense as the match could go either way. Rollins nailed Reigns with the Pedigree but the champ kicked out. In a killer spot, Reigns went for the Spear but Rollins neatly reversed it into a second Pedigree for another near fall. Finally, Rollins lifted up Reigns and planted a third Pedigree to score a major surprise 1-2-3. Rollins cleanly pinned Reigns to regain the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. ****3/4
The cheers were deafening when Rollins pulled off the win. But there was another surprise in store for us this evening. The theme music of Dean Ambrose, the newly christened Mr. Money in the Bank, rang out in the T-Mobile Arena to thunderous cheers. Rollins looked on in utter shock and stood up to stare his quarry down the ring entrance. Ambrose came from behind and clocked Rollins in the head with the briefcase. He then slid out of the ring and handed the briefcase to ref John Cone, who signaled for the bell, leading to…
11. WWE World Heavyweight Champion Seth Rollins Vs. Dean Ambrose: Ambrose picked up Rollins’ carcass and promptly finished him off with Dirty Deeds in a mere nine seconds, finally winning the World title that should have been his last year. If you thought the cheers were deafening when Rollins won, they were nothing compared to the jubilation that erupted in the T-Mobile Arena when Cone handed Dean Ambrose the WWE World Heavyweight Championship Belt.
What a great moment it was! With Ambrose as World champion, there are so many tantalizing programs that can be done for the title. Ambrose lost to Brock Lesnar at Wrestlemania. Now you have a top challenger for the title. Rollins will certainly want his rematch. So will Reigns. There’s also Kevin Owens, who has several victories over Ambrose during their feud over the IC title earlier this year. Then there’s Rusev, who having conquered the US title, might want to go after the World title to truly stick it to America. AJ Styles could challenge for the title. Or have Dean him go the distance with John Cena and win clean. Bray Wyatt holds several victories over Ambrose from their 2014 feud.
In the span of five minutes, I just came up with eight fresh and exciting feuds for Ambrose to defend his title in that takes us up to Wrestlemania 33. What I hope is that Dean Ambrose is not merely a transitional champion and the belt will go back to a babyface Reigns no one wants. The WWE World title is finally on the right guy. Don’t screw it up, Vince.